Heat Stress Management

What is heat stress?

During the summer months, air temperature can reach levels that increase the risk of heat stress. Our bodies naturally regulate an internal temperature between 36 and 38 degrees Celsius. To maintain a safe internal body temperature, we sweat when we start to overheat. However, in some circumstances, sweating is not enough. When it is hot outside and/or you work in a hot environment (like in a mill or paving) your body will heat faster than it can cool, this is called heat stress. Heat stress, when not identified early and treated can lead to heat disorders which can have serious health effects.

How are you exposed?

  • The environment – the ambient temperature, through either direct or indirect sunlight that is reflected off a surface (such as pavement, glass or a heat source such as a kiln).
  • Work – whether you are working or playing, the more active you are the more energy your body produces, the hotter you will get.
  • The individual – everyone has an individual tolerance to heat, this can be developed through conditioning and acclimatization. Poor health, certain medications and age (youth and elderly) can decrease your ability to acclimatize and can decrease your body’s ability to self-regulate. Additionally, excess clothing and non-breathable clothing will trap heat and prevent cooling.

The dangers of heat stress

As your body heats, and sweating increases, the body loses fluids, salt and minerals (electrolytes) through the sweat. If the fluids and electrolytes (salts and minerals) are not replenished, heat stress symptoms will occur. The longer the body goes without mitigation strategies, the more severe the outcome can be.

First signs of heat stress

  • Excessive sweating
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea

If these signs are ignored, and the heat stress is not treated early, heat disorders can develop. These include:

Problems and symptoms Treatment Prevention
Heat rash (prickly heat)
Tingling and burning of the skin, red itchy rash. Red clusters of small blisters that look like pimples. Usually on the neck, chest, groin or in elbow creases). Sweat glands plugged due to prolonged exposure of skin to heat, humidity, sweat.
• Move to a cooler environment
• Dry damp skin
• Take a cool shower – dry thoroughly
Keep the skin as dry as possible
• Rest in a cool place
• Shower often
• Change clothes frequently
• Keep skin clean
• Use a powder (i.e. baby powder) to soothe the rash
• Wear breathable, lightweight, light coloured clothing
• Plan your time outside with care, ensure cooling breaks are taken, cooling options are available and plenty of water/sports drinks are available
• Avoid caffeine and alcohol
Sunburn
Painful red and warm skin, with or without blisters.
• After sun care creams – look for aloe vera based treatments or sunburn treatment lotions
• Put a cool soft cloth of sunburned area
• Stay out of the sun until the sunburn heals
Use SPF (UVA/UVB) lotion appropriate to the temperature (i.e. 45+ for weather in the 40’s)
• Wear a hat
• Stay in the shade
• Reapply sunscreen throughout the day
• Ensure waterproof sunscreen is used if on the water, reapply throughout the day
• Follow recommendations on your bottle of sunscreen for reapplying frequency
• Wear breathable, lightweight, light coloured clothing
• Plan your time outside with care, ensure cooling breaks are taken, cooling options are available and plenty of water/sports drinks are available
• Avoid caffeine and alcohol
Heat cramps
Painful spasms of muscles that do the most work (arms, legs, and abdomen).
• Stop physical activity/work • Move to a cooler environment
• Massage the muscles
• Eat salt containing foods (unless to be avoided for medical reasons)
• Drink water and or electrolyte replenishing beverages
• Avoid caffeine and alcohol
Get medical help right away if:
• Cramps last more than 1 hour
• You are on a low sodium diet
• You have heart problems
• Warm up muscles before heavy work
• Take rest breaks
• Take cooling breaks
• Drink water frequently and supplement with an electrolyte replacement beverage (sports drink)
• Eat a normal, healthy diet
• Wear breathable, lightweight, light coloured clothing
• Plan your time outside with care, ensure cooling breaks are taken, cooling options are available and plenty of water/sports drinks are available
• Avoid caffeine and alcohol
Heat exhaustion
Tired, weak, dizzy, clammy skin, fast weak pulse. Pale or flushed skin colour. Higher than normal heart rate, very sweaty, nausea or vomiting, headache, muscle cramps and or fainting.
• Move to a cooler environment
• Lie down with knees raised
• Drink cool - not cold fluids, take small sips
• Place cool, wet cloths on your body
• Loosen tight clothing
• Call Campus Security for first aid 250-828-5033
Get medical help right away if:
• You are vomiting
• Your symptoms get worse
• Your symptoms last more than an hour with treatment
• Take 4-7 days to adjust (acclimatize) to the heat
• Drink plenty of fluids at regular intervals
• Take rest breaks in a cool place
• Wear breathable, lightweight, light coloured clothing
• Plan your time outside with care, ensure cooling breaks are taken, cooling options are available and plenty of water/sports drinks are available
• Avoid caffeine and alcohol
Heat stroke
Person usually stops sweating, body core temperature is high (40-43 degrees Celsius), skin is hot and dry (sometimes damp). Person experiences headache, fast, strong pulse, dizziness, confusion, may lose consciousness.
This is a medical emergency
• Call 911 to summon an ambulance and also contact Campus Security 250-828-5033
• Move the person to a cooler place
• Apply cool cloths to the persons skin or a cool bath – cool NOT cold!
• Do not give the person anything to drink
All measures identified above

For more information please visit WorkSafe BC, CCOHS, CDC, Interior Health & OSHA for additional resources.

For information on Warm Weather safety in a time of COVID-19 follow the hyperlink.

For places to stay cool in Kamloops go to Cooling centres in Kamloops

Please report to osem@tru.ca if an employee experiences any heat related sickness while conducting work for TRU. This is also a reminder to contact security/first aid for all heat related illnesses.

Please contact osem@tru.ca for further details or support.

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